DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- At a reporters' roundtable in Detroit today, Chrysler Vice Chairman-President Jim Press said the auto industry has too many brands -- before saying Chrysler, rated by auto experts as the weakest of Detroit's carmakers, won't trim any of its three.
Instead, he said, the automaker's solution to the problem of too many car brands is to bring Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler under one umbrella for sale at its dealerships.
Chrysler has 3,200 dealers, after closing nearly 300 last year due to either consolidation or financial difficulty, said Steven Landry, exec VP-marketing, sales, service and parts in North America.
In 2009, the automaker will do more advertising showing all three brands, Mr. Landry told Advertising Age after the roundtable. But he said the marketer will continue to ask Omnicom Group's BBDO Detroit to create ads for individual brands. Those efforts will focus on fuel efficiency, quality and five-star safety ratings, he said.
Chrysler Group hadn't combined all three of its vehicle brands in the same ads until recently, and the automaker just shifted its Jeep account back to BBDO from Omnicom sibling Cutwater, San Francisco.
Mr. Landry also said it's too early in Chrysler's discussions with Italy's Fiat to say whether its dealerships would also sell Fiat-branded cars.
General Motors Corp. has been a much bigger fan of multibrand advertising this decade, which critics say muddies the identities of its vehicle marques.
Mr. Landry said Chrysler will launch a pair of 30-second spots tonight for its "Employee Plus Plus" sales event, which offers discounts of up to $6,000 per model.
Chrysler Group slashed its U.S. measured media spending in 2008 to $579 million in the first nine months vs. $866 million in 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Mr. Press said the automaker is moving out of national TV and into spot buying to be more flexible and efficient with fewer ad dollars.
In 2008, Chrysler Group's new-vehicle sales slumped to 1.45 million units, a 30% decrease compared with 2007. Mr. Press said that's partly due to substantially cut fleet sales and the automaker cutting production by 1.2 million units.